It’s a Rough World Out There, Kid

“It’s a rough world out there, kid,” I say and I exhale smoke. I’m an old man. I have a small, prickly beard and a moustache and my hair is long and grey and gathers around the collar of my coat. I’m wearing finger-less gloves.

I’m sitting in a small, almost-empty bar. The lights hang from the ceiling, wearing old-fashioned fabric, oriental lampshades. The lampshades are red so the interior of the room is red: red light against shadow. Smoke coils upwards.

The boy looks at me, uncomprehending. I take a sip of my drink.

Outside the bar a sandstorm is raging. But I am only aware of the storm when I look at the windows. The rest of the time it’s silent. I look at the little boy and he is silent. The boy is me–from the past. The old man is me–from the future.

So, what of the present? Where am I now? Am I merely the narrator, the creator of this fiction? Or am I the sandstorm that rages beyond this flimsy half-place; this dive bar at the End of Everything?

Perhaps I am vibration of the window pane, or the truth that spills from the old man’s lips or the curious face of the child looking up at him.

Am I filled with hope, or truth?

Outside: there is a sandstorm.